Sunday 21st July 17:16

Top Ten Tips: Effective Facilitation

facilitation_142For those who aren't practised facilitators, the idea of facilitation is at first strange. It means turning the usual styles of leadership upside down. Instead of laying down the direction, facilitation allows others to chart their own path. Instead of telling them the outcomes you want, it lets them decide. And instead of getting people to reach your goals, you encourage them to reach theirs. So, here, for those who want to become effective facilitators, are our top ten tips on facilitation.

1. When a Group is Ready for Facilitation

Know when the facilitative approach to leadership is right. Don't use facilitation if a group is not ready. Use it if a group is ready to develop as a team and ready to take responsibility.

2. When You are Ready for Facilitation

You can't facilitate successfully if you or your organisation still feels the need to control and direct others. You are only ready to facilitate others when you believe people can take responsibility for their own growth.

3. Be Willing to Let Go


There are always 3 centres of control when you manage others. Control can be with you; with you and others together; or with others. In fully facilitative leadership, the group takes complete responsibility for what they do and how they do it.

4. Allow Things to Emerge

Pure facilitation allows everything in a group to emerge, including what in a control group, would be regarded as "unacceptable" behaviour or views. When you allow anything to emerge, you also require the group to take responsibility for it and what to do about it.

5. Value Everyone

Value everyone equally whatever their rank or status. Be equally courteous, interested, and attentive. When you do this, you reflect people's value back to them.

6. Use Reflective Questions

Learn the skill of reflective questions in which you turn people's questions to you back to them. When you do this, you indicate that their views are more important than yours and that they alone have the answers they're looking for.

7. It's About Them, Not You

Let go of your need to control, to judge, to protect, to argue, to blame, to shine, to look good, to arrange. Be supportive, be accepting, be there.

8. Help People Through Blocks

Help people through creative blocks, such as frustration, confusion, and conflict, by reflecting what you see as happening, making gentle interventions, and offering choices about what to do next.

9. 3D Leadership

Remember that you can lead a group from any one of 3 positions: out in front, in amongst, and from behind. Where you go depends on your reading of the group and how best to help them.

10. Process is Key

In a facilitated group, the process is more important than the goal; the interactions are more important than what you say or do; and how people feel about the experience more important than the context and content.

Further Resources on Facilitation

For a 20-page guide on Basic Facilitation Skills from the American Society for Quality, click here.

For a comprehensive collection of facilitation resources from Chris Corrigan, click here.

For an exploration of the theory and practice of facilitation from infed, the encyclopaedia of informal education, click here.